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January 9, 2020 - 9:10am

'Meeting of the Minds' - Scholastic Bowl opens its 32nd year

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In the eyes of Cathy Preston, moderator of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership-sponsored “Scholastic Bowl,” recognizing students for their academic ability is much more than a trivial pursuit.

Preston facilitated the questions and answers on Wednesday night as the high school competition opened its 32nd year at the television studio located in the Conable Technology Building at Genesee Community College.

She said that the opportunity to play a role in elevating students who place a high priority on learning has kept her motivated to continue with the show for a 17th season.

“I like to see kids who maybe aren’t athletically gifted also have a chance to challenge themselves and be in a competition,” said Preston, who was a contestant on the nationally syndicated “Jeopardy” show in 2003 (when she finished in second place). “Far too often, high school sports get all the attention – there’s nothing wrong with that – but it’s nice to see academically gifted students also have a way to compete and (receive some publicity).”

Preston, also a Scholastic Bowl alumna, said that 12 area high schools will be participating over the next seven weeks – 19 regular-season matches in all with semifinals and finals scheduled for Feb. 26 and Feb. 27, respectively.

“There are three or four students per team, depending upon the night,” she said, noting that on opening night each of the three competing schools had three players.

Last night’s contests featured Batavia, Pembroke and Alden in the first match and Notre Dame, Pavilion, Alexander and Elba in the second match.

All the matches are streamed and downloaded live via GCC’s website and also can be viewed later on the GVEP (formerly BOCES) website, Preston said.

During the competition, a viewing room is set up down the hall in the Conable Technology Building for family and friends.

Each show consists of three rounds, Preston said.

“The first and third rounds are random questions, and the second round – the lightning round -- is 10 questions in a given category and each school has 60 seconds to answer those 10 questions,” she said.

Determining who “buzzed in” first is judged by Preston’s sister-in-law, Kathy Jursted, who also has been part of the program for the past 17 years.

“The students buzz in and I’ll call out their school name and then individual’s name -- and then they will answer the question,” Jursted said, adding that questions are provided by GVEP staff. Question topics include subjects taught in school plus some pop culture – arts and music, for example – sprinkled in.

Other high schools in the mix this year are Byron-Bergen, Attica, Le Roy, Akron and Oakfield-Alabama.

Batavia and Alexander got off to a fast start last night with Batavia amassing 230 points to outdistance Pembroke (180) and Alden (120) in the opening match and Alexander rolling up 300 points to defeat Notre Dame (90), Pavilion (90) and Elba (40) in the second match. The tiebreaker for second place went to Notre Dame.

Competition continues over the next six Wednesdays and Thursdays with the first match set for 6 p.m.

Just one match is slated for tonight, with Akron, Attica, Le Roy and Oakfield-Alabama putting their collective knowledge to the test.

Photo at top -- The Scholastic Bowl kicked off its 32nd year on Wednesday night at Genesee Community College. Taking part in the first match are, from left, representing Batavia, Nico Mirabal, Erik Kessler and Kathryn Fitzpatrick (seated) and advisor Bob Mullen and Sophie Beckman (standing); representing Pembroke, Hannah Clark, Maggie Johnson and Jack Crandall (seated) and advisor Vinny Lazzara; moderator Cathy Preston and judge Kathy Jursted; representing Alden, Michael Frisicaro, Charles Freeman and Kristina Wilson (seated) and advisor Renee Mertz and Peter Tolsma (standing). Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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